Dreading enforcing the cancellation policy for online clients? | The Practice Activator

There’s you – the business person, who wants to generate profit and freedom, otherwise, you’d be working for someone else, right? And then there’s the other part of you – the helpful person who wants to serve others and have a positive impact on their lives. So what do you do when you feel icky about having the cancellation fee conversation with your online clients?

Push through it because you “know you should”, or avoid it at all costs because…um, awkward?

Even with the online part of your practice, where people are paying for their session before they see you, it can feel weird to invoke the policy. You worry about how it might impact the rapport you’ve built, and it’s human nature to shy away from these conversations.

Here’s a tip on A) Not making it awkward and B) Being who you are, as well as a successful owner of a profitable business.

First of all, you’ll need to have a cancellation policy in place, AND communicate that policy both verbally and in written format. Which then allows you to do the next bit…

But before I go into that, you’ll need to remember that you’re a business owner. And zero people are going to give you permission to do this, or anything at all. You are in 100% control and responsible. So you can do what you like! Use this as inspiration… (and if you want to attract more online clients, grab your freebie here).

Here’s what I do (typically) if a client forgets about an online appointment and doesn’t turn up. (Note – all of my clients pay online before seeing me. And, my cancellation fee is the same as the appointment cost):

  1. I contact them usually via email or text. Here’s what I say:

“Hey Name, just checking in to see if you’re alright? I’m on Zoom for your appointment. If you’re running a bit late, that’s okay. Let me know.”

  1. I email again, once it’s very obvious they won’t be joining me. Here’s what I say:

“Hey Name, it was a shame to have missed you at your appointment. Can you let me know if you’re okay, please? Here’s the link to go ahead and book in again. I can see that I’ve got Thursday afternoon available <>”.

They go ahead, and book and pay for their next session.

  1. I wait until I see them at the next appointment to discuss why they didn’t attend.

This invokes some client responsibility – they can’t hide behind an email! But this also allows me to be a decent human and listen empathetically.

  1. If this is the first time the client has been a no-show, and they are “sturdy and stable”, then I may re-educate them on the policy. And then here’s what I say:

“Just this one time, I’m happy to waive the cancellation fee, which means you won’t pay anything for your next session. But if it happens again, I will need to abide by the policy. Does that sound good? (I’ve never had a ‘no’ btw). Great, let’s book that in right now.”

I attract awesome clients, and so, when I do this, they are incredibly grateful.

  1. If this is not the first time, or if me being ‘strict’ is part of the wellness process, then I will re-educate them on the policy, and discuss how I can help them turn up. And I say:

“I really want you to turn up so that I can help you continue to progress. You’re doing so well.”

In this case, they have already paid the fee for their missed appointment and they simply book in and pay for their next appointment.

And that’s it! I used to be incredibly strict about enforcing the cancellation policy. But, after 10 years I recognize that for me, it’s better to live by my values while being a business owner. Who would have thought 😉

If you feel icky with your current way of doing things, just know you can experiment with alternative solutions. See if they work and if they don’t – change it up.

Let me know in the comments if this was useful for you, and how your values and upholding your cancellation fee differs, or how it’s similar.

Alex Whitehead
MBA, BSc(Psych, PGDip(Psych)
CEO at The Practice Activator